“The further backward you look, the further forward you can see.” – Winston Churchill
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards” – Steve Jobs
The purpose of the American Business History Center, a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, is to create a nexus or hub for the study, popularization, and celebration of business and entrepreneurial history. Our primary purpose is to create and sponsor outreach programs including a significant presence on the Internet and in social media, speeches, video and audio presentations, tours, and books and other printed and digital articles and publications. The Center will ultimately include a business history research library and public museum in historic Flatonia, Texas.
Lawyers study precedents. Doctors study the Hippocratic oath. Political strategists study past election results. But the far larger world of business often has little sense of history. People involved in business often don’t know how businesses get created, grow, or get destroyed. This is costly to our society. If more managers and leaders studied the lessons of history, both the successes and failures, they might succeed more often.
Students at all levels study the history of politics and war. But that’s not what history really is – it’s the story of everyday life and how it changes over time. Much of that change is due to business. However, public awareness of where our great regional, national, and global enterprises, the products they make, and the entrepreneurs who built them is limited at best. Most of the greatest business leaders in American history are unknown and unsung. We aim to change that.
Who are we trying to reach:
1. Anyone interested in history, in the stories of the great entrepreneurs, business leaders, their companies and products. These include the millions who have worked for them, who have invested in them, who have bought from or sold to them, and their parents and grandparents who did the same. Our aging baby boom and other “cultural tourists” are a meaningful part of this market. Many industries including automobiles, aviation, railroads, antiques, toys and games, china and glassware, department stores, and beer and soft drinks already have large “nostalgia” followings, as evidenced by books and collectibles sold online and at swap meets.
2. Present and future business leaders who control the destiny of enterprises great and small. Even if they have received the “best” business educations offered, in most cases they have rarely read or heard of the mistakes and successes of the past. At the same time, many of these individuals are voracious readers of management advice and leadership books and websites, many of which are fads which quickly pass. We will add historical context to this mix.
3. Students of all ages with a focus on young people. We will create curricula, audio, video, and in-person experiences (exhibits and talks) which stimulate the imagination and inspire young people, some of whom will go on to create and lead business enterprises. The quality of life for the common man and woman is in large part the quality of the businesses that serve them. We aim to improve future outcomes by fostering an appreciation among young people of the value of well-managed businesses to society.
Content creation and ambitious presentation and marketing are our primary tasks. We will also spend time fund-raising. Our plan includes the following initiatives, listed roughly in priority order:
- Continue to build our website. We want our website to serve as the nexus of business history information, the first place people go when they are curious about business history. Currently the website contains 23 business history articles (with more in the pipeline), 28 recommended books, 6 videos, 33 links to relevant websites, and 24 datasets (spreadsheets) of historical business data. We expect to dramatically expand those numbers. We may solicit content from other sources.
- Publish a free emailed newsletter with business history stories and lessons, initially monthly, written by Gary. Grow the subscriber list over time.
- Promote everything we do on social media, such as Google placement and ads, other websites, supportive blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Medium, and Twitter.
- Create additional industry history video shows or slide presentations. 6 live presentations by Gary are on our website and on YouTube. The restaurant, hotel, food, and beverage industries are at the top of our lists of future topics. We hope to create at least 2 new ones every year.
- Write additional business biography articles, which have proven very popular. We have published 15 of these in conjunction with the Archbridge Institute, with one more now at the editors and 2 more in the pipeline. We hope to write at least 6 of these per year.
- Create a print and Kindle book of those biographies in late 2019 or early 2020.
- Make corrections and enhancements to Wikipedia entries on industry and company histories, which are often incorrect, incomplete, and overly opinionated.
- Develop a community of those interested in business history and relationships with corporate archivists, academics, business history sites like the Hagley Museum in Delaware, podcasts including the excellent “Business Wars,”, and others who believe in the importance of business history.
- Seek speaking and teaching opportunities to promote learning from history.
Longer-term, with adequate funding, we additionally hope to:
- Develop business history courses and curricula for students of all ages and schools of all types and grade levels.
- Develop books, pamphlets, podcasts, videos, documentaries, and other multi-media products based on our content.
- Encourage the preservation of historical materials and structures.
- Hold seminars and workshops.
- Develop in-person business history tours (Pittsburgh, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Florence, and other locations).
Simultaneously, we will gradually be working to:
- Open our research library to scholars, writers, and researchers. Once we obtain a facility for storage and access, our library will include access to Gary Hoover’s extensive business history book, magazine, and ephemera collection, to be expanded over time. Ultimately, Gary expects to donate his collection to the American Business History Center.
- Develop a public museum and traveling exhibits, possibly as early as 2020, partnering with sponsoring companies, trade associations, trade publications, foundations, charter school operators, libraries, and historical societies.
Gary E. Hoover
Executive Director and Board Member
Gary Hoover has founded several businesses, each with the core value of education. He founded BOOKSTOP, the first chain of book superstores, which was purchased by Barnes & Noble and became the nucleus for their chain. He co-founded the company that became Hoover’s, Inc. – one of the world’s largest sources of information about companies, now owned by Dun & Bradstreet. Gary Hoover has in recent years focused on writing (multiple books, blogs) and teaching. He served as the first Entrepreneur-In-Residence at the University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business. He has been collecting information on business history since the age of 12, when he started subscribing to Fortune Magazine. An estimated 40% of his 57,000-book personal library is focused on business, industrial, and economic history and reference. Gary Hoover has given over 1000 speeches around the globe, many about business history, and all with historical references. His work can be found at www.hooversworld.com and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgeQBP2Oc1wwatyzSBOb6Xw.
Laurence B. Siegel
Laurence Siegel is the Gary P. Brinson director of research at the CFA Institute Research Foundation, and an independent writer and speaker specializing in investment management. Previously, he worked at the Ford Foundation for fifteen years, most recently as director of research in the investment division. Prior to that, he spent fifteen years with investment research and statistics firm Ibbotson Associates, the last seven of those years as Managing Director. Laurence Siegel has served on the editorial boards of multiple financial journals and received numerous industry awards. His strengths are writing, editing, and his central position in the investment industry. His work can be found at https://larrysiegel.org/.
Gary Hoover and Laurence Siegel both earned bachelor’s degrees at the University of Chicago, focusing on economics, and Laurence Siegel holds an MBA degree from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago.
William Leake is the CEO of Apogee Results, a digital transformation consultancy that has helped launch 100’s of successful companies as well as serving large brands like Amazon, Intuit, SAP, and HP. He has deep expertise across multiple business
Chairman, Board Member
David Stanwick, Chairman of our Board, is an accomplished entrepreneur and business history enthusiast. His primary skills are in web development, content creation, editing and publishing, and digital marketing. These skills will be critical to the success of the American Business History Center.